Can you ever be too confident?

Posted on July 2nd, by Dr Rob Yeung .

I do a lot of coaching to help people to become more confident in either their work or personal lives.  And I occasionally get asked by worried clients whether it’s possible to become too confident.

The growing scandal that has emerged at Barclays bank shows that people can sometimes be too confident.  The fact that traders at Barclays believed they could manipulate interest rates to make more money was surely a sign that they were supremely confident that they wouldn’t get caught.  They weren’t just confident but arrogant – they had super-inflated egos and felt they were bullet-proof.

So when does confidence become arrogance?  If you’re at all worried that you might be on the cusp of becoming so confident that it spills over and turns into arrogance, ask yourself the following three questions:

  • “Am I still asking for the advice of other people?” Arrogant people typically believe that they can do no wrong.  If you’re starting to believe that there’s no point or need to ask for the input and opinions of others – that you’re cleverer and smarter than everyone around you – that’s an almost certain sign that you’re starting to become overconfident.
  • “Can I remember a recent occasion I was wrong about something?”  I once interviewed a manager who believed that the last time he made a mistake in his work was over five years ago!  If you honestly don’t believe you’ve made a mistake in such a long time, that’s another danger sign of believing your own hype.
  • “Can I remember a time in the last few months I changed my mind about something important?”  Again, this question reminds us that we can’t always be right.  Yes, we may be right a lot of the time.  But being unwilling to change our minds about anything important is another sure sign of inappropriate arrogance rather than appropriate confidence.

Most people who feel the need to work on their confidence will almost never end up becoming so confident that they become arrogant.

But if you know someone who is already very confident, you might want to point out this article to them.

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